When we’re done, I’ve won the game.
But it feels like we’ve both won something else.
A normal, terrific, fantastic date, and neither one of us needed to order a lobster to get some good action.
Because that’s what we have when we go home to her house. I say hi to her dog, then I get her clothes off in seconds flat, and I send her soaring.
As she wraps her arms around me, I can feel my trust issues slipping out the door.
Good riddance. I won’t miss them.
“Here’s one of my favorite parts of dating. I get to do what I like best—devote my mental energy to assembling cute outfit combos,” I say to the phone camera, then model the newest ensemble I’m wearing for tonight’s date with Chris: a swingy little skirt from ModCloth, silver Rag & Bone ankle boots, and a sapphire-blue top I snagged from the best place of all—Target. “Here’s the key—don’t forget that picking an outfit for the third date with a guy you really like is all about you. Sound selfish? Hardly. Wear what makes you feel pretty. Wear what makes you feel good about yourself. That’s what makes a great date outfit.”
I click end then shoot another video, this one with tips for guys (Don’t wear what makes you feel pretty, wear what you think she’ll like). When I’m done, I head to my bedroom, take off the clothes, and leave them on my bed. I pull on a soft T-shirt and jeans and return to my living room, where Andy works diligently from my couch, Ms. Pac-Man commandeering the spot next to him, her snout resting on his leg.
He pets her as he works. “I’m checking out the numbers. Looks like you’re definitely seeing an uptick in dudes, according to the site demographics,” he says, glancing up from his screen.
“Excellent. Good to see the strategy is working. Would you mind sending that report to Kara at Redwood? I updated her the other day, but she can’t get enough of numbers going in the right direction, especially when it comes to men. That was one of the key goals for her investment.”
I settle in at my desk, editing the videos for posting, humming an Elvis tune under my breath as I type. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Andy smirking.
“Spill. What’s that little grin all about?” I stare at him over the screen of my laptop.
“Oh, I was just curious how well your strategy is working.”
My brow knits with confusion. “I thought you just said it was working.”
He shakes his head slowly. “No, the strategy where you don’t fall for the guy you’re dating.”
“What are you talking about?” I say, choosing to play dumb because it’s easier than facing the stark truth.
He rolls his eyes. “Seriously, girlfriend,” he says, adopting some over-the-top sass.
“Seriously, guy-friend,” I mimic.
“McKenna, you just sat there humming ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’ as you worked.”
I pretend to be outraged. “I did not.”
He slices a hand through the air. “You did. Fess up. You’re falling for this guy in a major way.”
I huff, shrugging. “I like him. A lot. What’s so wrong with that?”
“Nothing is wrong with it. If it’s what you want. I’m just making sure you’re ready. You went into this dating project with a clear goal—to have fun again.”
“And it is fun,” I interrupt.
“Yes, dating is fun,” Andy says diplomatically as he pushes a shock of hair from his forehead. “Until feelings get involved.”
“It’s not fun then?”
“It can be. But it shifts. It becomes real.”
“Is that why you prefer hookups?”
He nods and gives a closed-mouth smile that strikes me as a little sad. “I’m no good at relationships. So I keep everything at a distance. But that’s my MO, and it has been for a while. You’re wired differently. You’re wired for relationships, and I’m pretty sure that’s what’s happening with this guy. You’re falling into a relationship.”
I glance away as if I’ve been caught. “I don’t think that’s the case.”
“You truly don’t?”
I steel myself, meeting his gaze again. “That would make me foolish. I’m not foolish. I’m practical. Chris and I made a deal. Just fun-dating. No-strings-attached dating. That means we’re not going to fall into a relationship.”
“Fine. Just be careful. Watch your heart. I don’t want to see it get bruised again.”
I cover the organ in question. “Don’t worry. I’ve got this baby on lockdown.”
He barks a laugh, the kind that says he doesn’t quite believe me. “Keep the key in a place only you can find. Okay?”
A little later, I tell him I’m going to shower before my date.
Looking at his watch, he says, “It’s only five.”
“Well, sometimes a girl likes to take her time getting ready for her guy.”
He closes his laptop, smirking. “Her guy.” As he speaks, he sketches air quotes. “Good luck on your ‘fun date.’”